Sekisui hearing: Beaches vital to loggerhead survival
SUNSHINE Coast beaches could play a major role in the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtle with warm temperatures producing male hatchlings, according to an ecologist.
Dr Mark Hamann gave evidence on behalf of Development Watch during a court appeal over Sunshine Coast Council's decision to approve Sekisui House's residential, resort and retail development in Yaroomba.
Development Watch and Sunshine Coast Environment Council launched the proceedings against Sunshine Coast Council and Sekisui House after the approval in June last year.
Dr Hamann weighed in on courtroom debate over the potential impact of lighting from the development on the nearby nesting loggerheads.
On Monday, Sunshine Coast Council's expert ecologist John Thorogood told the Planning and Environment Court hearing Yaroomba recorded an average two nests a year, which accounted for a "minor" portion of the entire southwest Pacific's population.
The court heard a considerably-higher number of nests were recorded on more populated beaches than Yaroomba, such as Buddina and Shelly Beach, the latter of which Dr Hamann accepted sat "cheek by jowl" with development.
Dr Hamann said while the Sunshine Coast's beaches might be considered "minor nesting sites" in terms of female turtle numbers, clutches and stock, they were vital to breeding.
"If we consider that the Sunshine Coast's beaches are likely to be almost the only male-producing beaches for this stock, I don't think they can be classed as minor," he said.
During cross examination by Sekisui barrister Danny Gore QC Dr Hamann accepted he had provided comment on Sekisui's draft turtle impact report in 2015, but failed to notify the court of this at any time.
Mr Gore tendered an email chain as evidence, and read excerpts of Dr Hamann's statements including "if loggerhead turtles nest in other areas of the Sunshine Coast, then impacts (of the development) will be minimal".
Dr Hamann said these comments were made in a different context and with less information than what was available to him for the court proceedings, and noted "large gaps" in the 2015 data.
Dr Hamann said with the information available to him now, he believed the development's impact could be "significant" if the turtles were impacted as they moved off the beach and offshore.
Lighting impacts have been a key point of contention, with the development's opponents claiming lights would deter nesting turtles and disorientate hatchlings.
Dr Hamann conceded if biologists and lighting experts joined forces, he believed they could create satisfactory lighting conditions to mitigate light spill and glow from the development.
The court heard of the 29 nests recorded at Yaroomba between 2007 to 2018, 16 had been relocated.
Dr Hamann rejected a suggestion this indicated Yaroomba was "not an ideal nesting site", and explained relocations were a "very common" conservation method to increase hatchling numbers.
The hearing began November 18 and is scheduled to run to December 6.